where the writers are
It's not all it's cracked up to be, dear
Amazon.com Amazon.com
Powell's Books Powell's Books

You know what really annoyed me when I was going through the submissions/rejections process?

Actually, it still annoys me.

Published people telling so-called ‘aspiring’ writers that ‘being published won’t sort your whole life out, you know’ or ‘It’s not the be-all and end-all.’

It was OK for them to have spent years working towards their goal, coping with the frustrations, getting disheartened by rejections and yet having the determination to get there in the end. But if you do the same, you must be a deluded wannabe who thinks a book deal will make your bank account groan with a million quid and your letterbox collapse with invitations to soirées with JKR. You sad little person, you – sitting there in your crappy job and dreaming of being famous enough not to have a care in the world. If only you knew the agony of being a published author!

There is, I accept, a chance that people say those things out of a rather British inclination to play down success. They don’t want to show off, and don’t want to upset anyone or cause jealousy. Or they’re just trying to help, having forgotten that people never learn from others’ experience. Most likely, they are well-intentioned.

That doesn’t stop them coming across as infuriatingly patronising.

If you’ve had the wherewithal to write something and send it out on submission, chances are you are not dur-brained enough to think that a book deal will bring you permanent health and happiness, resurrect your dead goldfish and get the BNP out of Europe. Serious ‘aspiring’ writers are grown up enough to know that it’s a book deal they’re aiming for, not a key to eternal sparkly youth.

I’m increasingly reticent about giving advice to other writers, because, after all – what the hell do I know? That’s why I often put up nature pictures or historical bits-n-bobs rather than doing proper, writerly blog posts. But one thing I do know is that people who have got what they want are very good at telling people who haven’t got what they want, that they shouldn’t want it.

Getting published is not always easy. Being published is not always easy. But, then, not many things in life are easy, and that doesn’t mean they are not worth doing.

I know it’s early days for me but I think being published is great. I love it. Of course it doesn’t mean I will never be disheartened or furious or ill or frustrated or suicidal in the future. I might change my mind and decide my book ruined my life – who knows? But I’ve never expected publication to be a panacea. It has been well worth striving for – and striving for it meant becoming obsessed with it, making it my goal, and sometimes getting depressed and sleepless over it.

This was not nice, but it’s the way it is, and it was worth it. So if I had my unpublished time over again, I’d completely ignore the people who said ‘listen, love, publication’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Just like I did the first time.

4 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

I enjoyed reading your post

I enjoyed reading your post,Caroline.

It's a great feeling when you are, at last! a published author. You feel your book and wonder if that's really your picture on the book. Then you wait for the media reviews and when you get good press, you're on a high again. But after your days of 'fame' you are soon forgotten. Then you try to keep reminding people that you are an 'author' by smuggling in a line at the end of a newspaper or magazine article (The writer is the author of ...).

Your comment, 'If only you knew the agony of being a published author!', beautifully sums up the situation. There is great joy in being a published author. But post-publication, the agony can sometimes be greater than the joy.

That's why you have to keep writing, again and again!

Best wishes,


Comment Bubble Tip

Thanks Caroline! Encouraging

Thanks Caroline! Encouraging and it made me smile. I'm just nearing completion of my first novel and am currently summoning up the strength to start submitting. I don't expect acceptance to come soon - or maybe even never - but I plan to keep on writing nonetheless. Thanks for a great blog post x

Comment Bubble Tip

True (and funny) post!

Hi Caroline,

I really do think the kind of advice you allude to ("It won't change your life") is well-meant, but I agree that it isn't helpful. Everyone should get to ride his or her own rollercoaster!

I've had a few people write to me recently asking for my advice/opinion about what the odds are of a person getting published, making a living as a writer, etc. I tell them I'm not any kind of expert on the subject (and I refer them to websites where many people have opinions about this sort of thing), but I do recommend that if he/she isn't in it to enjoy the "ride," writing might not be for him/her.

All of which makes me wonder if perhaps some of the "It won't change your life" advice isn't meant to imply that focusing on "It" ("being published") shouldn't displace one's love of creating the work in the first place?

Thanks for bringing up an important topic in a wonderful way. And, btw, one month into being published myself, I agree with you that being published *is,* IMO, pretty cool and fun.

Comment Bubble Tip

Thank you!

Thanks for your comments, everyone - I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck with the submissions, Sarah!

Congratulations on your book, Tanya, and I agree there's a lot to be said for reminding ourselves to keep hold of the love of writing amidst the pressure to achieve publication. When people have asked for advice, it's only fair to be realistic (in a supportive way), as you have been. It's when writers are just minding their own business that the advice is not so helpful!